Ellis Haizlip punctured sexism and homophobia on TV -- especially within programming for Black audiences. About his being gay, same-gender loving, two spirit or whatever you choose to call it, one of his relatives initially was not accepting of it. Nonetheless, as one person says on-camera about Haizlip's being different, "...that was his magic."
A buddy and former co-worker is in this documentary. He's the fascinating Felipe Luciano. Felipe knew Ellis Haizlip. Felipe himself became a TV host. He was a news anchor on New York City's Fox5 station. He anchored on GOOD DAY NEW YORK. For that local morning news show, I did entertainment features in the 1990s. Every time I worked with Felipe on the air, I felt that his energy made me better. He's smart, sophisticated, earthy, sexy, provocative, truthful, giving and wise. He is exactly the kind of person I hoped to meet when I moved to New York. I mention him because, gay man that I am, I always felt safe in his presence be it on-camera or off. I felt I could be myself with him. Ellis Haizlip must've felt the same way. Felipe's warm accounts of their friendship are some of the highlights of this documentary. And there are many. The production is dedicated to the late actress/singer Novella Nelson. She was a marvelous talent many of you may recall from the 2002 drama, ANTWONE FISHER, starring and directed by Denzel Washington. She was in the original Broadway cast of the hit musical, PURLIE!, based on a comedy play by Ossie Davis.
Before Oprah, before Arsenio, there was Ellis Haizlip. SOUL! was an extraordinary cultural landmark. The documentary director says that her uncle "was considered to be the Black Johnny Carson." He was a true pioneer with a revolutionary show. The TV history he made deserves to be remembered. MR. SOUL! starts streaming August 28th. Thank you for this lively and revealing documentary, Melissa Haizlip. It is most relevant today.